Meet Erin Kelly Author of Watch Her Fall

Erin Kelly's eighth thriller, Watch Her Fall, was published in April 2021 and was described by Cosmopolitan magazine as 'Black Swan but in book form'. It's the story of a highly competitive role of Odette and Odile in the ballet Swan Lake that Ava Kirilova has won, but other dancers would kill for the part...

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Kelly tells Thriller Women why lockdown put paid to some of her ballet research, how she goes about plotting twists and gives a quick heads up on the plot of novel number nine!

Book cover of Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly

TW: Watch Her Fall is the latest book in your successful career. What was your path to publication and why did you choose to write thrillers?

EK: I didn’t set out to write thrillers as such: I just wrote the kind of book I loved to read. I grew up reading Barbara Vine, Patricia Highsmith and Daphne du Maurier, plus YA thrillers by Lois Duncan. My favourite books often deal with the long shadow of the past: The Secret History, Brideshead Revisited, The Go-Between. So when, in 2008, I decided to write the book I’d been talking about writing pretty much since I could read, I naturally gravitated towards that kind of story.

TW: What research did you do into the world of ballet, which is the setting of the novel?

Less than I would have liked, because of lockdown. I had backstage tours lined up at major ballet companies and I was also due to sit in on workshops and rehearsals but of course they had to be cancelled. Thankfully there are dozens of wonderful biographies of extraordinary dancers, and hours and hours of material online. I devoured everything I could.

TW: Rivalry and jealousy are two main themes in the book. Why do you think these universal emotions are so ripe for writers and how did you think up an original take on them?

EK: We have all been jealous or envious. It’s a very universal emotion and as a thriller writer I like to take a situation we can all relate to and take it to its most extreme and shocking conclusion. As for an original take, I just let the story lead me where it wanted to go!

TW: Your novels are renowned for their intricate plot twists and shocks. How do you go about planning them - what's the key to not making them obvious?

EK: It’s all about reverse engineering. I’m definitely not one of those writers who starts on page one and works towards the end. I can’t start laying the clues until I know what the ending is going to be – and the process of getting there is one very long, very messy draft with lots of deletion and rewriting. I don’t write chronologically, which is good because it means if I’m not in the mood for one scene, I can pick up another part of the book and work on that for a few days.

TW: As a writer, what do you think a satisfactory ending for a reader entails?

EK: The only golden rule is that the reader shouldn’t feel cheated. An ending can be quiet or dramatic, but leaving big questions unanswered can frustrate readers, as can the sense that the writer didn’t really know what they were doing. With Watch Her Fall, I had a very clear idea of the feeling I wanted readers to have when they closed the book, but it was a while before I came up with a scene and a sequence of events that led us there.

TW: You are also a teacher with Curtis Brown Creative. How do you juggle that with writing and having a life?

EK: It’s not easy! I’m not teaching live lessons at the moment which helps. I love teaching creative writing – I find it so satisfying when someone I’m working with has a ‘Eureka!’ moment about their novel, and I’ve met some fascinating people along the way – but I have to limit how much I do in person because too much thinking about other people’s books always leads to burnout, which means I can’t finish my own.

TW: Tell us about your ideal day.

EK: My ideal writing day has no one else in it, a few exercise breaks and food delivered to my door. I’ve had about seven of these days in my twelve-year career as a novelist.

TW: What are you working on now?

Another psychological thriller, about a treasure hunt and a family of artists.

Quick fire questions:

TW: Favourite food?

EK: I love spicy vegetarian food.

TW: Favourite holiday destination?

EK: I’d love to go to Japan.

TW: Favourite book so far in 2021?

EK: I can’t stop thinking about You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes. 

TW: Favourite treat for rewarding yourself when you've finished a novel?

EK: I’m an art junkie so I like to buy a picture – a one-off, or a vintage oil painting or limited edition print.

Thanks Erin!

Image of Erin Kelly, author of Watch Her Fall. Copyright John Godwin.

More about Watch Her Fall:

Swan Lake is divided into the black acts and the white acts. The Prince is on stage for most of the ballet, but it's the swans audiences flock to see. In early productions, Odette and Odile were performed by two different dancers. These days, it is usual for the same dancer to play both roles. Because of the faultless ballet technique required to master the steps, and the emotional range needed to perform both the virginal Odette and the dark, seductive Odile, this challenging dual role is one of the most coveted in all ballet.

Dancers would kill for the part.

Ava Kirilova has reached the very top of her profession. After years and years of hard graft, pain and sacrifice as part of the London Russian Ballet Company, allowing nothing else to distract her, she is finally the poster girl for Swan Lake. Even Mr K - her father, and the intense, terrifying director of the company - can find no fault. Ava has pushed herself ahead of countless other talented, hardworking girls, and they are all watching her now.

But there is someone who really wants to see Ava fall...


We've got lots of great interviews coming up on Thriller Women. Plus both of us co-founders have new thrillers coming out in August and we can't wait to tell you all about them! 


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